Take back the driver’s seat: 10 steps to regain control of your relationship

Do you feel the power has been shifting in your relationship? Did you suddenly find yourself adjusting your calendar according to your partner’s schedule, canceling appointments to have lunch with him (or her), waiting for him to call or write, following him around like a little puppy dog?

This is bad news. People might think they like to be in control, they might temporarily enjoy the power trip they are on. But in the long run they will lose respect and admiration for the person who puts up with them, and at that point your relationship will be in serious trouble.

You can’t shift the power back by talking to your partner. Talking to people about their issues rarely gets you anywhere (unless you are a therapist). But there are lots of little things you can do to regain a healthy balance in your relationship. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

1. Do you find yourself saying ‘no’ to your friends’ invitations to go out, because you don’t yet know if your partner will have time to get together? Or do you only make half appointments until you know your partner’s schedule? Yes? Well, then you are missing out on a lot of fun, and you are slowly but steadily teaching your partner that he (or she) doesn’t need to make arrangement with you ahead of time. Why should they if you are always available? There is no harm done checking in with your partner before committing to nights out with others. Depending on your relationship, it may even be expected that you do that. But if your partner can’t say whether he is free or not on a given night, then go ahead and make other plans.

2. When you are about to head out for a bite to eat, and your partner asks you “what are you in the mood for?,” do you reply with “I don’t know. What are you in the mood for?” or “I don’t know. Whatever you want”. Then ask yourself whether you are really telling the truth. Maybe you are just trying to be easy-going? The problem is that sometimes easy-going is a pain in the butt. If someone asks you what you want, tell them what you want. If you don’t know, at least tell them what you don’t want.

3. Are you one of those who always follow other people when you are out. I mean literally ‘follow’. They cross the street, you cross the street. They turn right in the mall, you turn right in the mall. They walk into the restaurant and pick a table, you follow. Stop it. Next time you are out, take the lead. When you walk into a restaurant, steer with determination toward a table and sit down.

4. Is your significant other continually calling you when it is convenient for him (or her), for instance, on the way back from work or while waiting for the subway? Do you always answer the phone because you don’t want to miss his call? Maybe you’re okay with that, but if you don’t like the time he is calling you, don’t answer the phone. Call him back later when it is more convenient for you.

5. Does your significant other have a temper and does he (or she) feel it’s his right to take it out on you? Do you quietly listen to him venting because it isn’t a big deal? Guess what? It IS a big deal. If you don’t like the tone or volume of his voice, don’t reason with him. Just tell him to stop yelling/venting/complaining/blaming you/talking with an angry voice. If he doesn’t stop, say it again. If that doesn’t help, walk out of the room or hang up the phone.

6. Does your significant other often get home much later than you expected without calling you or telling you that it might happen? If you don’t live together, then you have to accept it but if you do live together, this is not acceptable. But don’t complain about it. Give him (or her) a taste of his own medicine. Make plans to stay over at a friend’s house without telling him. When you get back next morning, just say that you didn’t know that he wanted you to call. Then leave it to him to suggest a general rule about calling.

7. Is your partner not sharing the housework with you? Does he (or she) just leave the dishes in the sink and wait for you to do them? Put up a note on the wall behind the sink saying ‘please remember to put dirty dishes in the dishwasher’. If he still doesn’t do what is minimally required of him, put his dirty dishes in a heavy-duty plastic bag, place it in the garage and gently remind him that he needs to do something about it.

8. Is your partner spending more time with his (or her) friends than you would like? You know complaining about it won’t work. Instead spend an equal amount of time with your own friends. Or sign up for yoga or chess classes. Don’t purposely put your outings on days you think he might be free (this is not about revenges but about regaining a natural balance in your relationship). Put your nights out or your aerobics classes on days that seem good for you and your friends or days that seem to work well with your work schedule. If your nights out happen to coincide with his free nights, then let HIM suggest that you coordinate schedules.

9. Are you continually giving into things you don’t really want to do? Don’t waste your life. Figure out for yourself what YOU want to do. Next time your boyfriend (or girlfriend) tries to convince you to do something you don’t want to do, tell him that you just don’t want to do it. Convey what you do want to do when/if appropriate. And don’t give in, except if you are negotiating on reasonable terms and the result of the negotiations do not make your uncomfortable.

10. Do you occasionally throw temper tantrums, break down crying or screaming or start yelling and blaming? These kinds of behaviors are the fastest way to lose control in any relationship. Those who can keep calm and composed even in the most critical and upsetting situations will ultimately have more control than those who fall apart. So gain control and you will be on your way to regain control of your relationship.

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